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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
42 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY The memories are dammed up in my body: the smell of sewage and cumin in the hot Indian air, the texture of newly ironed cotton on my skin, the whirr of sleepy ceiling fans above, the feeling of being unable to wake from a bad dream. These sense experiences are as accessible to me now as they were that day. That day was in late January 1988. I was twenty-two years old, and my dharma teacher was the center of my world. I had given up everything—my old friends, my job prospects, my family, my pos- sessions—“for the sake of the dharma.” I had thrown caution to the wind in order to follow this teacher’s vision for my life. All in. That was the day he first approached me. We were alone in a hotel room in Delhi, for a dharma check-in he had arranged. The check-in lasted just minutes, though, before he grabbed my body and pressed his face toward mine. My body was wrapped in burgundy robes, my head freshly shaved. It was sandaled and draped with a mala, a gao (Tibetan prayer amulet), blessing strings. That body had not been touched by a man for some time. I had been encouraged for many months to be celibate, a lifestyle culminating in monastic ordination. Just sixteen days before, at the insistence of this very same teacher, I had taken vows of celibacy for life. When I was twenty-two, I had no idea how to make sense of all of this. There was no modern literature, at least none I had seen, on teacher-student sexual relationships in Buddhism. Shoes Outside the Door, Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, and Eyes Wide Open weren’t yet written. Medieval narratives of Buddhist life in awkward transla- tion were my sole reference point. In these tales, women were con- sorts, dakinis, muses—desirable reflections of the male gaze. words that Bind, words that liBerate Clergy sexual misconduct. Abuse of power. Exploitation. We don’t want to believe these words apply to us or our sanghas. We turn away from them for understandable reasons. We may be afraid of